In many ways, Arsenal faced a lose-lose situation in last night’s Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round clash with Sutton United. Given that they didn’t win by a huge margin, nor did they suffer an embarrassing defeat at the hands of National League minnows, you could argue we didn’t learn an awful lot from the performance.
But on closer inspection, there’s plenty to talk about. Ladbrokes News takes a look at three things we learned from their 2-0 victory…
The kids aren’t necessarily all right
The players that travelled to Gander Green Lane for the Gunners say a lot about the future of the club.
Last night was a perfect opportunity for Arsene Wenger to bring a handful of youngsters into the first-team to test their wits alongside some of the bigger stars. But Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Rob Holding were the only fringe players included in the travelling squad.
While the latter has impressed when given opportunities this season, he looked vulnerable last night and his weaknesses were exploited by Sutton.
Similar in physique and style to Manchester City’s John Stones, plenty of work needs to be done if Holding is to live up to his potential.
As for Reine-Adelaide, he struggled to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and was subsequently replaced by Maintland-Niles, who was also largely ineffective in the 15 or so minutes he came on for.
This trio are some way off the standards expected at the Emirates. And with first-team chances being few and far between, we wouldn’t be surprised if they were the subject of loan deals in the summer.
It’s something they could all do with.
Is this Wenger’s parting gift?
No manager has won this competition more times than Wenger. Only former Aston Villa boss George Ramsay can equal the Frenchman’s tally of six. And as for FA Cup wins, Arsenal are level with Manchester United on 12.
Nobody really knows how long the 67-year-old will stay in charge, although plenty of fans and pundits are expecting him to call it a day at the end of this season.
Nine of the players that featured last night also played a part in Arsenal’s previous game – a Champions League Last 16 tie against Bayern Munich.
Wenger certainly isn’t taking this Emirates FA Cup lightly.
He probably could have rested a couple of big players against Sutton so as to give a few more fringe players a chance to impress. But he didn’t, and kudos to him for that.
He’s been handed arguably the easiest tie of the quarter-finals, as Lincoln City will visit the Emirates. And barring the biggest upset in the history of the competition, Arsenal are as good as in the last-four.
So will a record-breaking 13th FA Cup be his parting gift to the fans?
What does Alexis Sanchez’s cameo mean for the future?
Forget new signings, Arsenal’s priority should be keeping hold of Sanchez this summer.
But has his mind already been made up?
Reports are suggesting that could well be the case, with the likes of Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain both expressing an interest in the Chile international.
Not many could blame him for wanting out. He came to the Emirates to challenge for multiple trophies, and so far that’s not been the case. And with the current air of uncertainty surrounding the north London outfit, Sanchez may well leave in the summer.
Eyebrows were raised when Sanchez’s name was included in last night’s matchday squad, with many expecting the former Barcelona ace to be rested following a hectic fixture list.
So did Wenger bring him along to please fans while he still can?
We’ll find out in the summer.
As for now though, the Gunners have done what was required of them, and they’ll be rewarded with a week off before they travel to Anfield to face Liverpool in the Premier League.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing